What is Homophobia? in Identity
Find out more about what homophobia is and the struggle for sexual equality.
As lesbian, gay and bisexual rights charity Stonewall state, homophobia is "the irrational hatred, intolerance and fear of lesbian, gay and bisexual people."
Homophobia is often the term used for intolerance toward bisexual people, but the bisexual community also struggle with biphobia. This is when their sexuality is seen as invalid. Biphobia comes from a belief that you are either straight or gay, and that sexuality is not a spectrum.
How are people homophobic?
People can be homophobic in many different ways. Homophobia takes the form of insults, discrimination and even includes violence. Such abuse is motivated purely on the fact someone is of a different sexual orientation.
This bullying is born out of ignorance, fear and, in many cases, immaturity. Homophobia isn’t always obvious either. If you are ignored or not treated with the same respect as a heterosexual person this is still homophobia.
A report by Stonewall on the experience of gay young people in schools in Britain in 2012 found that 55% of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experienced homophobic bullying in Britain's schools, and over two in five gay pupils who experience bullying attempted or thought about taking their own life.
Many phrases and words may appear as harmless but can also be homophobic. 95% of secondary school teachers in Britain said they heard phrases such as ‘you’re so gay’ or ‘that’s so gay’ in their school, a 2014 report by Stonewall showed.
According to slang expert Tony Thorne the word ‘gay’ in schools has partly lost its sexual connotations and to many young people was another word meaning ‘lame’ or ‘rubbish’.
However, the fact the word is being used in a negative light means it can be regarded as homophobic. According to Stonewall, 65% of young gay people have to experience homophobic bullying at school, with many schools rife with homophobic language.
Who’s trying to make a difference?
There are organisations that work on behalf of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people such as LGBT Youth Scotland. You can find out about some of the work they do by visiting the LGBT Youth Scotland website.